Flatware filler

I am searching for the best material to fill the hollow handle of a
(dinner) knife. Pitch is classic, but not heat friendly. Glue is too
permanent if you need to do a repair. Any clues?


I am searching for the best material to fill the hollow handle of
a (dinner) knife. Pitch is classic, but not heat friendly. Glue is
too permanent if you need to do a repair. Any clues? 

was reading article about this yesterday- apparently fine sand is

Christine in Sth Aust

Megin, your best site for this is the silversmithing.com
website. I had a silversmithing repair job for a brief period, and
the material I saw inside knife handles seemed to be some kind of
mix of pitch and plaster. But the Society of American Silversmiths
folks would actually know what is now being used for such work. We
did, I remember, soft solder, not braze, the handles back on to the
knives. Really. But ask the experts!

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA

I am searching for the best material to fill the hollow handle of
a (dinner) knife. Pitch is classic, but not heat friendly. Glue is
too permanent if you need to do a repair. Any clues? 

I would consider using epoxy—either the usual liquid or a
plumber’s putty. It can be dissolved with acetone if a repair is
needed, but will survive dishwashing, etc.

Cynthia Eid

Shellac ( same material used to hold objects) has also been used.

The classic material is pitch or wax mixed with a lot of brick dust
or whiting. The point is that there should be a lot of inorganic
filler and not a lot of the pitch or wax - just enough to bind it
together. I would try sealing wax with some kind of stone dust
(pulverised brick, very fine sand, pumice or whatever) - melt it
together in a pan (over boiling water?) adding enough filler so that
the wax is just runny enough to be able to pour it into the handle.
Heat the handle and hold it in a good thick cloth while you fill it
using a spatula or whatever and heat the tang of the knife blade to
insert it while the wax is still hot. don’t overfill the handle as
the blade tang will take up a fair amount of the space within the
handle and you may have difficulty forcing the excess wax out as the
handle and bolster of the blade come together.

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
from the home of the finest cutlery


Suggestions for alternate filling for a knife handle:

  1. Hot-melt glue as used in the packaging indusrty comes in a
    variety of hardnesses and melt temperatures. The problem is they sell
    it in 50kg boxes, perhaps a sympathetic storeman will give you some

  2. Epoxy glue is very permanent, but it does soften at about the
    same temperature that lead solder melts, and can be burned out if
    done carefully. Try it on something disposable like a nail stuck in a
    thimble. The 5-minute variety will probably set before you can get it
    all into the handle and aligned; with the slow setting variety you
    will have to find a way to keep the blade aligned for the hours it
    takes to set.

Good luck!

Megin, For the life of me can not remember the name of the product.
It is dry, mix with water and in minutes becomes hard as wood. You
can drill, saw, file it.

I tell you this because I discovered and used it just for what you
are asking. Have done Hollow ware repair for 20 odd years or more.
Hundred of reblades, lunch and dinner knives, serving pieces, shears,
you name it. I used this product because dishwashers destroy old
silverware. Makes pitch melt in dinner knives. This product stands
the test. You will find it in your harware store. Ask someone for a
dry wood patch product. If not e-mail me.


I think the material is called Rockhard or Rockhard Putty. It comes
in a red and white can. Most any “good” hardware store will have it.

Bill Churlik

Re STeven’s reply to Megin about flatware filler. He described a
mix-with-water product which hardens but he couldn’t remember the
name… (He probably did remember the name in the middle of the

Could it be Durhams’ Rock Hard Water Putty? I don’t know if it will
do the job Megin wants it to do, but it sounds like the product
Steven was trying to remember.

If that ain’t it, I’m wondering about some of the powdered stuff
used for repairing, or anchoring hardware in, concrete. They mix
with water and end up waterproof and HARD - They are not so amenable
to shaping and working after they have hardened, but they are

Marty in Victoria

There have been a number of suggestions from various people as to
possible fillers for these handles, some of which would do the job
but many of which would not be a very satisfactorylong-term solution.
I wouldn’t say that the advice I gave in this case of using pitch or
wax and a stone dust filler, is necessarily the only way or even
perhaps the best way to do the job as new materials are always coming
along which may just supplant the traditional materials. However, I
only post advice on things I have some personal experience of and on
which I think I understand the reason for traditionally doing things
that way. In this case, of course, the filler has to be stout enough
to support the handle against quite rough knocks and strong enough to
hold the blade tang in firmly and withstand regular washing in hot,
detergent filled water. In the past, the silver or gold handles of
fine cutlery were the most expensive part and it was not uncommon for
the gentry who could afford such luxurious cutlery, to have broken or
sharpened away blades replaced in the original handles - thus it was
necessary that the filler material should be able to be softened just
enough to remove the old blade without damaging the handle.
Additionally, there is always the possibility that the blade will
become loose in the handle through heavy use or through being dropped
and it would be very difficult to remove some of the 'permanent’
fillers which other list members have suggested. In the old days of
course, cutlery was produced by many small firms which operated on
the ‘Little Mesters’ principal - the cutler would commission blades
from the forger who would pass them on to the grinder who would pass
them on to the hardener who would pass them on to the finisher who
would pass them on to the mirror polisher who would pass them on to
the handle fitter from where they would eventually arrive at the
cutler and the packer. All these various trades people were self
employed and worked either from home or in workshops rented often
from the cutler. They were usually kept fully employed by the one
cutler but may sometimes have worked for two or even more cutlers.
So, each handle maker and fitter had their own ‘secret recipe’ for
the handle filler as there was no standardised material commercially
available. However, most of the makers seem to have used virtually
the same basic materials - maybe some would have added a bit of
beeswax to make it easier to put in the handle in the first place,
some used brick dust, some limestone dust, some sand and most used a
mixture of more than one of these. It is unfortunate when people use
materials such as epoxy just because it is there and it says on the
packet that it will do everything - more often than not it won’t!
There were many, many years of thought put into the old time choices
of materials and very sound practical and scientific reasons for the
way things were done.

Whatever you do decide to use, you must ask yourself a few basic
questions -

  1. will the material hold the blade securely for many years?

  2. can it be used to fill the handle completely - i.e. does it
    shrink as it dries and can it be packed into every corner and

  3. is it strong enough to support the handle shell?

  4. if there is a problem filling the handle or if the blade
    subsequently needs to be removed can this be done and, perhaps more
    importantly, can the filler be removed from the handle without
    damaging it?

  5. will the filler stand up to everyday use? Unless you are going to
    do research and experiment on all these points,

I would stick with traditional materials - we know they work…

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
from the home of the finest cutlery - SHEFFIELD UK

I must agree with Ian Wright’s comments on the filling of flatware
handles. I have been in the trade for 45 years now, and when I was an
apprentice back in the 1960s, one of my jobs was the preparation of
what we called “cutler’s cement” and also the filling of the hollow
handles with the cutler’s cement. I used to melt black pitch in a
large saucepan, then add plaster of paris to thicken the mixture and
finally add parrafin wax, not acurate measures so I can’t give exact
percentages. Then I would prepare a large steel flatplate with lines
of old flat files, like the lines on a writing page, then I would
pour the molten mixture onto the flatplate molds and it would set in
12 inch lengths, these were easy to hold and warm with a torch flame
and drip into the handles.

To hold and fill the handles we had a container filled with wet
sand, the handles were pushed into the sand with their openings
facing upwards. I would then melt the cement into four handles at a
time, to about 75% full, then I would heat the tang of either the
knife or fork, slightly and push it into the handle, by heating the
tang a little, this made the cement easy to push into and also made
the cement stick to the tang.

When the handles were set, any overspill from the handles would chip
off easily using a chisel shaped piece of hard wood. To paint you a
better picture, some of the cutlery sets that I worked on had
hundreds of pieces of cutlery in the set, each place setting had
three pieces with hollow silver handles. One last tip, if anyone has
only a few handles to fill, then setter’s cement is a good quick

I hope this is of interest to someone.

Peace and good health to all Orchideans